KERNERSVILLE — Mount Airy’s reign as 1A West Regional tennis champions is over, but it lasted longer than anyone expected. Furthermore, its dethronement may prove to be only an interregnum.
Despite finishing third in the Northwest 1A Conference this season and needing a wild card entry to participate in the state playoffs at all, a Mount Airy team missing five starters from last year’s state runners-up won two road playoff matches and returned to the state quarterfinals. On Monday evening, their run finally ended with a 5-2 loss to Bishop McGuinness, which advanced to an all-NW1A West final at East Surry on Wednesday.
The final score was much closer than the final score suggests. The match, by rule, ended when the Villains’ Lydia Cortes and Michelle Petrangeli closed out a 10-2 win over Ashtyn Myers and Anna Kate Tucker at No. 2 doubles. At the time this match ended, Elizabeth and Meredith Marion held an 8-7 lead over Becky Auger and Claire Rogers at No. 1, and Olivia Perkins and Olivia Malone were rolling, ahead 8-4 against Megan Standen and Olivia Kennedy.
The key for the Villains, as it turned out, was a victory for Charlotte Dabar over Olivia Malone at No. 6 singles. Malone won the first set of the match despite losing serve twice, but continued to struggle on serve and got shut out in the second set to force a match tiebreaker. She led 3-2 in the tiebreaker but faded, dropping the match 4-6, 6-0, 1-0 (10-6). Dabar’s win meant that Bishop held a 4-2 lead after the singles.
Lady Bear freshman Perkins had an impressive win for Mount Airy (13-7) at No. 3 singles, rallying from down 3-5 in set one with a dominating run that lasted through her second set of a 7-5, 6-3 victory. This evened the match at 2-2. However, Tucker surrendered two long runs of lost games in her match against Standen at No. 5, getting blanked in the first set and then losing four straight after taking a 2-1 lead in set two. Standen’s 6-0, 6-4 victory put the Villains back in front.
Bishop (17-3) took a quick 2-0 lead in the match. At No. 1 singles, Elizabeth Marion led 2-1 in set one, but then lost serve to the Villains’ Becky Auger and never won another game, falling 6-2, 6-0. Myers didn’t fare any better against Petrangeli at third singles, winning just one game in each set. Mount Airy fought back with a hard-fought victory by Meredith Marion at No. 2 singles. The Lady Bear sophomore lost her opening serve against Cortes, immediately broke back and won the first set. However, Cortes won set two and then saved four match points after the younger Marion had taken a 9-5 lead in the tiebreaker. Marion finally put everything back together and won the match 6-4, 2-6, 1-0 (13-11). Perkins then won to even it up.
Elizabeth Marion was the only senior on a Mount Airy team whose losses were all at the hands of East Surry, Bishop, 4A Ronald Reagan, and 2A Surry Central, which finished 18-1 after a loss in the 2A quarterfinals on Monday. With five starters back for each of the next two seasons, the Lady Bears will be one of the favorites to rule the 1A West in 2018 and 2019.